Home > Uncategorized > Time For a Reset Would be a Good Time To Address the Questions on the Cover Page of This Blog… to Question the Dominant Paradigm

Time For a Reset Would be a Good Time To Address the Questions on the Cover Page of This Blog… to Question the Dominant Paradigm

November 18, 2020

The title of an article in Forbes by Raymond Pierce- “A Reset of Public Education“- caught my eye this morning as I scrolled through my news feed.  The reason for a reset is obvious: we are now living through a universal disruption to the status quo that is opening the door for us to completely re-think and redesign the way we deliver public education. I read the article hoping to find some ideas of how Mr. Pierce might propose change. But instead of offering some concrete proposals or a framework for beginning the needed deliberations, Mr. Pierce focused on the need for seeking common ground:

The call for unity following our recent presidential election should be accompanied by thoughtful and serious conversations about a comprehensive approach to multifaceted challenges that beset public education. For too long, there has been too much investment in one-size-fits-all approaches, such as private school vouchers or tax credits, and new accountability and testing methods. Let’s take this moment to recognize the complexity of providing mass education, and examine the range of approaches that really work, where they work, and why. I strongly believe there is a wealth of common ground within the public education debates that can be the basis for a real reset.

Our conversations must include a fulsome examination of long-standing models of success in areas such as community schools and wraparound services, teacher development, personalized learning, and more. We must recognize and reckon with such difficult issues as school funding, student discipline, behavior and mental health, and of course the governance of our local public school districts. These conversations must be expanded for a comprehensive reset of how mass education goes forward in this nation.

I am in complete agreement that we must find common ground… but I am not sure that we can find common ground as long as we are framing our discussions on the same old factory model that has served as the framework for public schools for over a century. Instead, I see this as an opportunity to focus on the questions I posed when I launched this blog over nine years ago:

Discourse on public education is stuck in a rut because the public thinks of public schools as factories. When I shared this observation with some colleagues a few years ago, their response was “So what? Everyone knows that! What difference does it make”. Their rejoinder was partially true. First, NOT everyone knows that schools are modeled after factories. Secondly, the notion that school-is-a-factory is so ingrained that we cannot conceive of a different method for organizing education. Finally, it DOES make a difference because when we unwittingly accept the notion that schools can only be organized like they are today we avoid asking questions like:

  • Why do we group students in grade levels based on their age?
  • Why do we group students within a particular grade level based on their rate of learning?
  • Why do we group students at all?
  • Why does school take place in a limited time frame?
  • Why do we believe there is “one best way” to educate ALL children?

All of these practices are in place because they result in “efficiency” in the factory school… and until we change our minds about how schools are organized, until we replace our conception of schools as a factory with a new mental model, we will continue measuring “quality” by giving standardized tests to students grouped in “grade levels” and recycling “new ideas” and “reforms” based on ways to run the factory more efficiently.

So… why DON’T we pose those questions NOW? The best way to change a dominant paradigm is to question its premises. The five questions above would be a good start to moving away from the old debates about how to provide schooling to all children and move in a new direction.

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